A shocked nation is seriously concerned: what should effectively be done in word and spirit to protect the honour and ensure dignity of women? An emotionally shaken and ashamed nation has to now consider the criticality of the concern in its totality. So far nothing concrete has emerged that could generate confidence in the efficacy of assurances being given by the politicians and establishment. Women have suffered for ages together. The need to give them their due was repeatedly emphasised by luminaries on different occasions. This year, January 12 onwards, the nation has begun its celebrations of 150 years of the advent of Swami Vivekananda. He travelled India in its length and breadth; he knew India, its strengths and weaknesses. The depth of his understanding is visibly evident when he states: “In India, there are two great evils. Trampling on the women and grinding the poor through the caste restrictions.” He clearly articulates: “Can you better the condition of your women? Then there will be hope for your well-being. Otherwise, you will remain as backward as you are now.” Swami found it very difficult to understand why in the country that boasts of following Vedanta could differentiate between men and women whereas Vedanta declares that one and the same conscious self, atman, is present in all beings irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or gender. Problem identified but what would be the solution? The enlightened Swami was convinced that no matter how grave the problems Indian women were facing, there are “none that are not to be resolved by that magic word education”. In the web of innumerable suggestions and alternative solutions suggested in terms of reforming the lot of Indian women, one finds immense pragmatism in the following words: “Educate your women first and leave them to themselves; then they will tell you what reforms are necessary for them”. I am yet to listen to or read such a suggestion in the plethora of channel debates and newspaper articles. Men want to take decisions on women, probably fully and keep them under their thumb in the garb of reforms. Swami wanted only one right of interference to men: give them education and then let them decide.
One is amazed when instead of examining the social and cultural context that has led to most of the miseries being inflicted on women, known and unknown, everything is being blamed on the Western culture. No doubt, in the name of modernisation and globalisation, unscrupulous elements have commoditised the body of women. Never before were they exploited so blatantly in the ‘markets’ as today. When Virat Kohli persistently tells the country “ladki patane ke do tareeke janta hoon”, somewhere one finds it not in tune with the socio-cultural context of the country. Should he really commoditise his popularity without considering the possible impact on the majority of parents? Well, he could just retort: my more illustrious peers in cricket and Bollywood have already paved the path. ‘Wealth without work” and “pleasure without conscience” were included among seven social sins that Mahatma Gandhi had published in Young India in 1925. The world of Indian cinema presents the worst example of this sin being committed consistently. While much is being rightly said about their positive contributions, some of the much-honoured luminaries there have never hesitated to ‘delink young Indians from India’. Vice, once ignited, travels swiftly and in the process cuts across every barrier of socio-cultural, rural-urban or rich-poor divide.
As the pain and anguish has been genuinely experienced throughout the nation, it is the bounden duty of parents, families and educational institutions to strive with determination to nurture courage and confidence among their daughters that would embolden them to boldly get their legitimate due.